“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”- General Douglas MacArthur
This past Monday was one of many official holidays observed by the www.http://www.mississippi.gov. As the name suggests, Memorial Day is more than a time for Mississippians to be off work; it is a time to remember. Remember who? Specifically, we’re called to remember soldiers who’ve lost their lives in the line of duty. It’s become a cliché, but America’s freedom as a nation is contingent on the strength of the nation’s armed forces, and “freedom isn’t free”. Setting aside time to remember is something we see happening regularly in the Bible. The Israelites are commanded to construct monuments to help remember God’s miracles among them. The ancient Jews were a people deeply committed to their history as a nation, remembering the patriarchs as examples of God’s love among them.
Our society doesn’t put enough value on remembering the past. In our preoccupation with the present moment, we give little thought to those who went before us, little thought to our ancestors who made it possible for us to be where we are today. Memorial Day is, hopefully, a day to correct some of that.
But how, specifically, do we remember the fallen? Is it enough to simply intellectually bring to mind what they did and try to conjure up some emotion of feeling moved? We best remember the dead when we strive to ensure that their deaths were not in vain. In other words, we honor the fallen when we try to ensure that what they died to preserve—our freedom as a nation—remains intact. We do this when we pray for peace.
World War I had been nicknamed the “war to end all wars”. Obviously, it didn’t usher in world peace. In the 1940s, it was actually widely believed that after World War II, wars would cease. There is a song from the World War II era titled, “There’ll Never Be Another War”. Today, such thinking seems naïve. But just because we may be more realistic doesn’t mean we shouldn’t in some sense remain idealistic. World peace is something we should pray for, just as we should pray for the end of world hunger and extreme poverty.
When Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer, specifically the part that says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, they are indirectly praying for world peace. Christ’s kingdom is a kingdom of peace, a kingdom where his disciples do not avenge themselves, but turn the other cheek. When God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven, bloodshed and murder will cease.
One of Christ’s titles in Scripture is “Prince of Peace”. We know that peace on earth will not fully be ushered in until Christ returns to bring it about. It’s easy to think about all of the violence and look outward, thinking the problem is with all “those” people, “out there”. In reality, though, murder, bloodshed, and all of the things that work against peace on earth, start as tiny seeds in the human heart. The place to begin when ushering in peace is not out there somewhere, but in our own hearts. G.K. Chesterton was once asked to write an article answering the question, “What’s wrong with the world today?” He famously replied with a succinct two words: “I am”. Chesterton understood that the problems of the world start inside the individual. The world collectively will not change until people individually first are changed.
May God change our hearts and minds so that we can truly become peacemakers.
“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower